Monday, May 13, 2019

My Felissimo Colored Pencil Coup

Felissimo colored pencils

I first heard about Felissimo colored pencils a little more than a year ago. A Japanese colored pencil brand with 500 colors, they are sold only by subscription. Every month, subscribers receive 20 unique pencil colors (price: 2,808 yen per month), and at the end of 25 months, they would own the full set, “the magnificent experience of a lifetime” (according to its website).

Five hundred colors! You can imagine the head explosion I experienced. For a short time, I was completely obsessed. Google searches led me to discover that a large part of the subscriber experience was using the pencils not as an art material but as home décor (which, as you know, is a concept that I’m not unfamiliar with). Further research indicated that the pencils are, in fact, better as home décor than as an art material. Discouraged, I considered subscribing only long enough to receive one month’s worth, just to experience a fraction of that magnificent experience. 

Unfortunately, there is apparently no way to end a subscription once it is begun (at least, the English-language Fellissimo site offers no FAQ or fine print related to such, and inquiries to the site returned no response). I stuffed the pieces of my head back into my skull, and I gave up.

But you probably know me well enough to know that I never completely give up (at least where colored pencils are concerned). Several months ago Felissimo pencils were back on my radar when I serendipitously came across a complete, “barely used” set of 500 on eBay. I contacted the seller to see if he would be willing to sell me one box only. No dice (as I expected; I imagine it would be difficult to sell the other 475 if one box were missing).

Patient and undeterred, I kept looking on eBay, and sure enough, listings for Felissimo pencils popped up fairly regularly, always in “nearly new” or new condition, and always as complete sets of 500. Some were even being sold with huge display racks. Each time I saw one, I inquired about the possibility of purchasing one box only. My offer was consistently declined.

Until one day it was accepted! The very accommodating seller, who had multiple new, complete sets to offer, gave me a choice of any color range I wanted. (Because Felissimo pencils are sold by subscription only, each monthly box contains shades and tints of a single hue, so it’s impossible to acquire a full rainbow unless you complete the subscription.) I chose green. I assured her that if I loved the pencils, I would be back for more.

Felissimo box No. 12
A month later, my box (No. 12 in the subscription sequence) arrived from Japan. Congratulating myself for my coup, I wondered if I were the only person on earth to own less than a full set of Felissimo pencils.

The box I purchased, which comes from Felissimo’s original edition released several years ago, contains 25 pencils (the full set includes 20 boxes). The current subscription is a second edition, which releases 20 pencils per month. The two editions can be distinguished by the barrel shape – the older edition is round, while the second is square.

I’m guessing that another box in the set must contain a darker, cooler range of greens because the one I received includes only lighter, warmer greens. It’s a joyful range just right for spring.

Felissimo pencils are distinctive for the names given to their colors. While some – Lime, Clover, Fern – are descriptive, others are much more imaginative. Season Ticket, Falstaff and Pixies are among my favorites. The color name, color number and branding are stamped in metallic gold on one side of the glossy, round barrel. They are lovely, elegantly designed pencils.
Intriguing but senseless color names

On the opposite side are stamped the color name in Japanese, a different (why?) color number, and the Felissimo logo a second time.
The opposite side indicates the color name in Japanese.

The rounded ends are beautifully dipped.
Lovely dipped ends

The box came with a table of the colors (in Japanese only) with space for the subscriber to make swatches. Hole punch marks indicate that the pages could be placed in a binder (which Felissimo most likely sells, or perhaps it comes with the first subscription fulfillment). I always swatch pencil colors in a sketchbook, but I like the idea of offering users a sheet like this to track colors.
Color chart for making swatches

Alas, that brings me to my own swatches, where I learned what’s inside these whimsically named and beautifully lacquered pencils.
Swatches made in Stillman & Birn Epsilon sketchbook

As I typically do, I applied three layers of pigment to make each swatch. Hard and waxy, the cores contain so little pigment that the third layer looked about the same as the first. They remind me of Crayola colored pencils (although perhaps that’s unfair – it’s been decades since I used Crayola). Many hues are so pale that I was afraid they might not scan properly. Some of the 25 “unique” colors vary so slightly that they might as well be the same (though to reach a count of 500, very incremental variations would be necessary). Sadly, the swatch chart above is probably all the coloring I will do with these pencils.

A cheerful spring bouquet
So it’s true: Felissimo colored pencils are much better as home décor than as an art material. I haven’t figured out yet how I will display my all-beauty-and-no-brains set of greens, but you can be sure I’ll show you when I do. Perhaps a candy dish is the appropriate display.

Speaking of eye candy, you must view this video of the Faber-Castell pencil factory. The glimpse of Polychromos end caps being dipped makes me swoon.

Updated 5/15/19: Yoseka Stationery posted a dazzling photo of the Felissimo collection and provided more information about the brand than I’ve ever seen anywhere, including this: 

"The lead in the pencils is manufactured in Kofu, Yamanashi and the colored pencils are made by small independently-owned factories in Katsushika and Arakawa, areas known as the centers of Japan's woodworking industry. . . . Like many countries, Japanese pencil makers are shrinking year by year due to the low birth rate and the rise of technology. The number of manufacturers peaked at 140 to now just a quarter. 20 of them are near Tokyo, which is why this series is also named Tokyo Seeds as a tribute to the local artisans."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...